A black silk cami

I was given a few lengths of some lovely crepe backed silk satin recently after my MIL had a big clean out. The fabric is probably quite old, but it is in perfect condition and of a beautiful quality. The smaller remnant was a gorgeous glossy black and I knew that it would make the perfect camisole.

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Crepe back satin is much heavier in weight than charmeuse, with the lovely brilliance of satin on one side, and a dull, pebbly appearance on the underside. Normally, I’d prefer silk charmeuse for a slip or cami, but going into Fall, I knew this beefier silk would work well for layering over shirts, as well as wearing alone.

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The pattern I used was the Camilla Camisole pattern. I made up a straight size 10 but lengthened it by about 1 inch. It is perfect. This is the third Camilla Cami I’ve sewn. I love this pattern. It stands out from the crowd because it is cut on the bias, which gives it an elegant fit that can easily be translated into both formal and day wear.

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I made my first Camilla Cami in a Japanese poly and literally wore it to death a few Summers ago. I’ve recently started wearing my second version a lot more. I like the way it layers over a nice tee. And now, this classic black version is going to end up as another staple of my Fall wardrobe. I keep meaning to lengthen the pattern into a slip dress, but I find these little tops much more versatile, and great for using up small lengths of pretty silk.

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Esther SKORTS PDF pattern piece and tutorial

I’ve been asked quite a few times about a tutorial for this little skort. I decided to go one step better. I digitised the actual pattern piece that I created, with all the sizes graded out to suit everyone! It can be downloaded here. It should match up perfectly with the Esther Shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, but there’s no reason you can’t adapt it to your own TNT shorts pattern by adjusting a few minor details.

I really love my white version. It is the second pair I’ve made and it’s seriously one of my best Summer staples ever. The front overlay adds a little formality and cover to a standard pair of shorts. I dress mine up with a blazer and heels. I also wear it out and about with Birkenstocks and a singlet. It’s a style that is very versatile.

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As I mentioned, my version is based 100% off the Esther shorts pattern. I made a straight size 8, but I did shorten the legs by two inches (whilst maintaining the original hem shape). To achieve the same proportions as me, you’ll first need to shorten the legs of the front and back Esther pattern pieces by two inches. If you want to add this overlay to the longer, unchanged length of the Esther shorts pattern, simply lengthen the skort overlay by two inches at the lengthen/shorten line (included on the skort pattern piece).

The steps below will help you put together your skort:

Pattern colour code template right wrong only

1. Cut out your overlay fabric: Outer fabric, right side facing up. Lining, wrong side facing up.

2. Prepare the overlay: right sides facing, pin the overlay fabric to the overlay lining. Stitch a 1/2 inch seam along the two angled bottom edges and the left side edge. Remember, the diagram below shows the skort overlay as you look at it in front of you, so the left side (as you wear it) will appear as the right.

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2. Trim seam allowance and turn the overlay out to the right side. Press. Baste remaining raw edges.

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Now it’s time to put together the rest of the shorts. I’m just going to summarize the order of construction here. If you need more details, refer back to your actual shorts pattern, but keep following this order of construction.

3. Stitch the left leg seams. First, insert zipper in the side seam of the left side, between the front and back leg. Complete the stitching of that seam. Then stitch the inner leg seam of the left leg.

4. Now onto the right side. Sandwich the side seam edge of the overlay between right front and right back leg side seam. Wrong sides of front and back legs facing the right sides of the overlay. Stitch. Finish raw edge.

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5. Fold the overlay piece up so it’s not in the way, and sew the inner leg seam of the front and back leg.

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6. Keep the overlay piece folded in and out of the way. Wrong sides facing, inner seams matching, now sew the crotch. Finish raw edge. Turn the shorts out the correct way. Press.

7. Unfurl the overlay piece and straighten out the waist edge so it lines up with the front waist edge of the shorts. Baste in place.

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Now, simply continue as your original pattern instructs. Attach the waistband and hem your new skorts. I usually serge the raw edge of the hem and then fold it up to the point at which the overlay ends at the side seam.

I hope you enjoy your Esther Skort as much as me!

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White Esthers and a knit raglan

There’s never any fabric waste in my house, especially when it’s something as lovely as this Saratoga knit by O! Jolly!. I only had the tiniest amount left after finishing my Megan longline cardigan, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

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I used the raglan view of V8952 as a base for the top. I made a few fit modifications, raised the neckline, and added my own neck and hem bands. I used some plain white ponte for the back and sleeves, and seamed together three scraps of Saratoga knit for the front. I love the texture of the spongy knit as a feature and the contrast of cream against white.

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The shorts are an old favourite and TNT for me. I used the Esther shorts pattern and simply added an asymmetrical overlay at the front. I used scraps for this make too. I salvaged some gorgeous, meaty Theory cotton sateen (from this dress) to use for the back of the shorts and for the front overlay. The dress was tired (with a few stains) and needed to be retired. I didn’t have quite enough sateen though, so I used some scrap linen for the shorts front and overlay lining. The linen was too lightweight for the shorts on its own, but perfect for this design where the front is layered.

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I’ll wear these shorts a lot. I made a yellow version a few  years ago which are still on the go, but have been downgraded to gardening/painting gear. It feels good to replace a wardrobe item that was very much loved.

 

Silk skirt and cami // attaching a lining with a vent

This, my friends, is why I sew. I made myself a woven skirt (with not a smidgen of stretch), that fits me like a second skin. It never fails to amaze me how wonderful it feels to pull on an item of clothing that is designed specifically to fit your body, and only your body, like a glove.

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I have never been able to find a RTW pencil skirt in any kind of fabric that fits me properly. My hips are a size smaller than my waist, with the volume behind me rather than at the sides, which always made pants and skirts very painful to shop for. However, I’m pretty sure most women out there can feel my pain. Even women with exactly the same measurements can have vastly different shaped bodies, which is why we take so long trying on all the clothes when we go shopping.

The skirt I made is to a very simple design. It’s fully lined with silk habutai, with an invisible zipper and vent in the back, although the print on the fabric makes both of these features difficult to see. The fabric is a gorgeous remnant of silk twill that I picked up from Britex Fabrics in San Fransisco a few months ago. It’s a lighter style of twill, which is possibly not entirely suited to a fitted skirt, but it is what the heart wanted.

The hem is not as sharp as I’d like, even after interfacing it with some lightweight fusible.  I’m hoping another good press will get the hem and vent sitting smoother. I’m also hoping the lining will help the outer fabric withstand the strain of sitting. (Update: since writing this post, the skirt has been out for two outings and all seams are still perfectly intact thanks to the lining.)

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This was my first time lining a skirt with a vent. I entered into the project prepared. I had a reference book on hand and I pulled out my beautifully constructed Herringbone Sydney suit skirt to study (a 2006 version of this one). I literally stared at both for hours. However, my brain could simply not connect the dots. I had a mental block. In the end I knew I just had to start sewing and hope it would become clear as I progressed. I did eventually have that lightbulb moment when everything made sense, but not before I had already cut the lining in the wrong shape. The diagram below shows you how I cut the lining (same as the outer fabric) vs how I should have cut it (in pink).

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The trick in sewing a lining into a vented skirt is in cutting the skirt lining with a gentle curve so that it can join the vent to the CB zipper seam. The lining is NOT cut in the same shape as the skirt pieces. Showing you how I repaired my mistake gives you a good idea of the difference between a straight CB seam in the lining and how the curve needs to go. Thankfully this mistake is only on the inside of my skirt.

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Here’s another tip I learned in the making of this skirt. There’s no need to sew a dart in the lining. It’s easy to get a professional finish by distributing the volume as pleat instead. I moved my pleat slightly to the side of the dart so I wouldn’t have a double layer of bulk (albeit very thin with silk) in the same spot.

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And there we have it, my first perfectly fitted woven skirt. I made a Camilla Camisole to go with it in some lovely silk CDC from Tessuti Fabrics. The bias cut looks great in this fabric because of the striped pattern.

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Shop the Look

Nina Ricci // J Crew // BCBG Max Azaria

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Jaywalk refashioned

This time last year, I made myself a dress and a maxi skirt in some striped jersey fabric. The dress is no longer with me. I literally wore that dress to death. I still like the skirt in theory, but the length of it was a bit off-putting for everyday wear. It was a simple issue to fix.

This refashion was quick and easy. I chopped the top off the skirt, tapered the side seams in a bit to fit my hips better, and re-attached some elastic to the waist. The top I’m wearing is my Camilla camisole. It’s a simple, bias cut cami that fits beautifully.

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I didn’t waste an inch of fabric in this refashion. The length I chopped off was just long enough to make a simple skirt for Miss Seven. I bought the side seams in by about 1.5 inches and shortened the elastic in the waist. She’s pretty chuffed because it fits the definition of a ‘fitted mini-skirt’ for her, which is something (along with heeled shoes) that I refuse to let a seven year old wear.

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Wide leg fancy pants

I had in my mind that I wanted to make a heavy, wool, maxi skirt or a pair of wide leg pants. The wide leg pants won out in the end, mainly because I feared the weight of the double faced wool crepe would just be too much in a floor length skirt. This is the problem with buying exclusively online. Sometimes I have to compromise.


The fabric is gorgeous though and the weight makes for a beautifully warm and smooth structured look to the pants. The originating pattern was my Esther shorts pattern, although I actually used my Japanese corduroy culottes as a base. I narrowed the culotte legs a little from the back, lengthened them, and drafted side pockets and a contrast yoke. I used some leftover cashmere from my Dior coat as the contrast.

 

 
 

As usual, I chose to bind the inside of the waistband. After the photos were taken, I also decided to lose the hook and bar fastener in the waistband and I made a buttonhole for a single glass button instead. Because of the thickness of the fabric, this made for a neater and more secure finish.

The Tessuti Fabric ribbons that always wrap my online fabric parcels make lovely little hanging ties for the coathangers to clip onto instead of my crushable fabric.  

I’m a little on the fence with this make. I love the colour and the shape of the pants, but I’m not so sure I like it together. These pants are loud! But they do fit very well and are beautifully luxurious and warm to wear. The length is also great. I’m wearing my flat gold sneakers in the photos but I actually made them long enough to accomodate a small heel.

The neoprene and cord top  that I’m wearing in these photos is not the top I’m intending to wear with these pants, but it does allow me to show off the yokes, pockets and full style of the pant better. I’m also not finished making the intended top, which is an epic, self-drafted, Rosie Assoulin inspired number. It’s been a lot of work, and there’s still a chance it could be a major disaster, but it will definitely deserve it’s own post when it’s finally finished. 

Do you have any last major projects on the go before Christmas?

 
 

Japanese corduroy culottes

My last pair of culottes are getting so much wear right now that I knew another pair wouldn’t go astray. This time I played around with the design a little. I kept the length, not just because I quite like the longer hem trend, but also because it keeps my legs warm in Winter.


Once again, I started with my Esther shorts pattern. I made the same modifications as with my green culottes, but simply skipped the pleats. I also widened the waistband a smidgen, moved the zipper to the back and added side seam pockets.

 
 
 

I also tried something new in the construction of these culottes. Have you noticed that RTW pants never have waistbands like we sew at home? I’ve had these suit pants for about seven years now. Have a look at how beautiful their innards are.

The edge of the inside waistband is bound with pretty binding. It’s so simple to do and it means that you don’t have to bother with folding the edge under and painstakingly pin it to ensure you catch it all perfectly as you stitch blindly from the other side. I actually don’t know why it’s taken me this long to try this technique. It looks better and it’s way easier. I bound the inside of my waistband with Liberty of London and stitched in the ditch from the other side. Next time I will bind the pocket edges too.


There is a lot less fabric in these culottes compared to my last version. This is just because I took out the pleats. This cord is also a lot lighter in weight. I could see this style of pant working well for Summer in either linen or cotton, at this length or just below the knee. If it weren’t Fall here, I’d be making myself a slightly shorter version in denim. In fact, I might still do so…

 

Corduroy culottes: another Esther shorts hack

I’m here to convince you that culottes really are the new skirt. And I’m not talking about the cute little flippy variety that could be mistaken for a skirt. I’m talking about the hard-core, wide leg, knee length type, or the sharp, A-line, midi silhouettes that are probably giving some of you unpleasant flashbacks right now. I admit, I get the flashbacks too. My high school sports uniform was a pair of bottle green, knee-length culottes (that memory came flooding back to me when my ‘blue’ corduroy arrived in the mail). But don’t worry, I’m quite determined to sway all you doubters out there, and to do so, I’ve put together not one, not two, but four different looks with the same pair of fabulous winter weight culottes.

For Autumn, I’ve paired them with my Nani Iro top and a pair of open booties. A long pair of tan leather boots would look fabulous right now, but I don’t own any and I spend all my spare cash on fabric instead of shoes. Can anyone else relate? 

The fabric I used in my culottes is utterly divine. It’s a cotton corduroy by Thread, with the most beautiful velvety sheen I’ve ever seen. It’s called ‘blue’ but it is most definitely a bottle green. I knew what I was getting though. It’s nothing like the dull kiddie quality cord that I’ve sewn with in the past. I should have paid more attention.


I do all my fabric cutting and sewing in the evenings in poorer light than I would like, but that’s just the way it has to be. I don’t have time to sew during the day. So I happily cut into my gorgeous fabric, positioning the legs in opposite directions and paying complete disregard for the nap. I merrily sewed away at the project until I tried my culottes on to decide on the hem length. The lightbulb suddenly went on in my head. Nap! Why did I not consider this first? I thought I’d made a total blooper of these pants. One leg was clearly a different shade to the other.

I think the difference in nap looks more pronounced in artificial light, and from my persepective as the wearer, looking down at an acute angle. It is such a silly mistake to make that I still feel like giving myself a slap. Anyway, they are so comfortable and warm that I’m just going to wear them anyway. I think it’s pushing it a bit far to call it a design feature so I’m just going to feign ignorance. What, my legs are different shades of bottle green? No way! It’s a shadow. Go get your eyes checked!

For view two, I opted for a more vintage feel. I’m wearing my Liberty of London Kanerva with them this time.

 


The pattern I used to make these culottes was based on the Esther shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics. My modifications were pretty simple. I added a 10cm pleat to the front legs. I also widened and lengthened the legs. I really like how they turned out but next time I will definitely add in-seam pockets.

I also tried my culottes out with my new favourite shirt. I like chambray with cord. Hubby isn’t too sure about this combination. He can’t decide whether I look like Anne of Green Gables, a school mistress, or Brethren. 

 
 
 

And finally, I paired the culottes with my black ponte and leather top for a slightly more edgy look. I like the silhouette of a cropped top over high waist pants. 

 

Here’s a summary of the four looks. Which one do you like best? And more importantly, when are you going to make a pair!
 
 

Cynthia Rowley vs grid lines

I’m sorry to say that past-Debbie was a bit more reckless with the pre-treatment of her fabric than she is today and my culottes suffered the brunt of this carelessness. They shrank in the wash. But the good news is that they have been refashioned into something that no longer prevents me from breathing.

There’s a good amount of fabric in a pair of culottes. I had just enough to make my new favourite top, another Cynthia Rowley Tee (seen before here and here). And it just so happens that I had a pair of matchy, matchy Esther shorts on stand-by, ready to turn this top into another Two-Piece Set-Acular. However, shorts season is pretty much at an end here, so in reality, I’ll be wearing this top with jeans, which might be a good thing. Is it just me, or did past-Debbie also forget to separate the colours in the wash? The top definitely looks a little more of a buttery white than the shorts.

I only made one extra modification to the top this time. I added a panel of faux leather down the front and back, mainly because a CF and CB seam of those gridlines would have just looked odd, even if I had them perfectly matched.

Yep, pretty happy with this make, but it’s nearly time for me to pack away my Summer gear. I’m going to try really hard to stick to seasonally appropriate makes this year. I’m so fickle with fashion that it just doesn’t make sense to make things, only to refashion it again before I wear it. But then again, that means I get two makes for the price of one! I see that as a win in my world. Some would disagree. 

In any case, I’m planning to live vicariously through the Summer making of my Southern hemisphere counterparts. So tell me, if you are watching the days get longer, what exciting sewing plans do have for Summer? And if you are on my side of the world, is it going to be a project list of coats and knits for Winter, or will you still sneak in the odd summer frock or two?


Turning my Esthers into pants

It’s no great surprise to anyone that I love my Esthers. I have four pairs that I pretty much rotate through the days of the week (here, here, here, and here). I love their high waisted, vintage style, and I love that they fit me superbly. It’s such a boon to find, make, or modify a pattern that fits so well. So it makes perfect sense that I would want to turn them into a pair of pants.

I’ve been wanting a slim fitting, cigarette style pant for a while now, but I just didn’t have a pattern to match what I wanted. I dread sewing pants, not for the process, but for the inevitable fit issues that need to be muddled through, as with any new pants pattern. And I don’t have a lot of experience dealing with fitting pants. I started by looking online for suitable patterns, and then it occurred to me that I already had a TNT shorts pattern that I might be able to modify.

 
 
 


It’s not that difficult turning a pair of shorts into long pants. I basically just lengthened all the side seams. The trick is in slimming them down and reducing the hip and thigh ease by enough. I was pretty happy with my first muslin, but the pants were still a lot looser than what I wanted for such a bright floral and the cigarette style I was after. So I narrowed the legs further to get what you see here. I could have slimmed them down more, but I was worried about going too tight. I don’t know about you, by I hate too-tight pants more than anything else when it comes to clothes.

And as it turned out, I already had a perfectly matching top in my wardrobe. I’ve paired my new flower pants with my trusty, much loved, and totally indestructible Camilla camisole.